Biography

Gary Grimshaw

Gary Michael Grimshaw, [1946-2014], was the first major poster artist outside of the San Francisco scene to attain national attention and his body of work is often considered to be the equal of the San Francisco “Big Five.” He was the principle poster and light show artist for the Grande Ballroom in Detroit, which for many years was the most important psychedelic rock venue east of the Rocky Mountains. Grimshaw's work graced not only that dance-hall venue, but could be found throughout the Detroit/Ann Arbor area from the mid '60s through the mid '70s.


Grimshaw came from a family of graphic artists. As a student he worked in his uncle's print shop in Dearborn, Michigan, where he was introduced to the printing process. He was drawing all the time. In high school, he was involved in graphic projects, including designing T-shirts with his friend Rob Tyner, who became the lead singer for the MC5. Grimshaw went on to be the principal artist for that group.


After graduating high school in 1963, Grimshaw took college courses and worked for a year in a steel mill. To avoid being drafted into the Army, he joined the Navy and served from 1964 to 1966, including seven months in the war zone on the South China Sea. At the close of his tour of duty, Grimshaw's ship was sent to San Francisco for service. It was during this time, in 1966, that he was first exposed to the music and the political and cultural scene that was just then emerging in the Bay Area. He was immediately drawn into it, participating in marches and political rallies.


In August of 1966, Grimshaw returned to Detroit, where he roomed with his old friend Rob Tyner. Through Tyner, Grimshaw was introduced to Russ Gibb, the promoter of the Grande Ballroom. Gibb had just returned from a pilgrimage to San Francisco, where he had also experienced the dance-hall scene in its early stages. He was determined to create a similar scene in Detroit via the Grande Ballroom.


Grimshaw became the first and primary artist for Detroit's Grande Ballroom, from its inception in late 1966 until May of 1969. Over the years, he contributed dozens of designs for the Grande, designs that appeared as posters, handbills, flyers, and cards. Early on, Grimshaw also did the light show at the Grande.

 

From 1966 to 1970, Grimshaw traveled frequently between the Detroit area and the San Francisco scene, sometimes staying for long periods in either place. He was a frequent contributor to West Coast underground press publications like the San Francisco Oracle (he did 13 issues) and the Berkeley Tribe. Back in Michigan, he worked with underground papers like the "Fifth Estate."

 

Grimshaw art directed the Ann Arbor Blues & Jazz Festival in 1972 and 1973. In 1974 he returned to Detroit and concentrated on its thriving rock and roll scene. For the next 14 years he produced posters, recording packages, logos and graphics for all of the major promoters and dozens of bands and clubs. Gary was also Associate Art Director of Creem Magazine from 1976 to 1984. 


Exhibitions of Grimshaw's work include four one-man shows in Detroit in 1984, 1987, 1996 and 2005. Group exhibitions include the Detroit Institute of Arts in 1974 and 1980; the Motor City Joint Show with Stanley Mouse, Mark Arminski and Wes Wilson in 1993; the San Francisco Rock Poster Expo in 1992 and 1993; the Temporary Insanity Show on Haight Street in 1995 and 1996; the Visual Jams Show during the opening of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame & Museum in 1995; the San Francisco Rock & Roll Poster Revival Show in 1999; the Bay Area Rock Poster Society's Big Show 2001 and 2002 and the Detroit Music Poster Show with Carl Lundgren and Mark Arminski at the Woods Gallery in 2005.

 

[Much of this write up comes originally from poster historian and Allmusic.com Founder, Michael Erlewine.]

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